Man sentenced for stealing guns from storage units, selling them

A Reseda man who pleaded guilty to trafficking firearms he took from self-storage units in Southern California was sentenced to nearly 10 years in federal prison.

Rick Eric Herst, 36, pleaded guilty in February 2021 to one count of conspiracy to traffic in firearms and one count of selling firearms to a convicted felon, federal prosecutors said in a release. He was sentenced Wednesday to 115 months in prison.

The charges stemmed from an investigation into Herst and two other men, Jeffrey James LaFraniere, 39, of Van Nuys and Alan Elperin, 31, of Mission Hills, who burglarized self-storage units in places including Los Angeles, Valencia, Thousand Oaks, Valencia and Rancho Mirage, stealing numerous guns and other items.

They would then offer the guns for sale either in person or through text messages, with Herst and LaFraniere offering to sell guns to people they knew were convicted felons, prosecutors said.

In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors said many of the guns have not been recovered and those that had been were found “in the hands of felons or recovered at crime scenes.”

In May 2019, the three men burglarized a facility in Valencia and took 35 firearms, including pistols, shotguns and “high-powered rifles,” prosecutors said. Later that day, Herst and LaFraniere sold two pistols to a person they knew to be a convicted felon.

Herst was arrested in March 2020 when investigators served a search warrant at his home and found a loaded Glock 9-millimeter pistol that was stolen in a residential burglary that January.

Investigators also found ammunition, dozens of stolen debit and credit cards, multiple stolen or fake California driver’s licenses and stolen merchandise.

Elperin is serving a 100-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy and receiving stolen firearms in November 2020.

LaFraniere pleaded guilty in September 2020 to conspiracy, receiving stolen firearms and selling firearms to a felon, and he is due to be sentenced May 26. He faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in federal prison.

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